Nicholas Cage, Bridget Fonda and Rosie Perez star in this irrepressible romantic comedy inspired by the true story of a humble cop who leaves a $2 million tip to a hard-luck waitress.
Charlie Lang is a neighborhood cop with a heart of gold-and a money-hungry wife Muriel who’s always looking for a way to cash in. When she asks Charlie to buy a lottery ticket, he agrees, then impulsively promises half the winnings to a waitress, Yvonne. When their numbers hit, the real fun begins, as Muriel learns to live large while Charlie and Yvonne learn to love again. A captivating comedy laced with whirlwind romance, “IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU should happen to everyone!”
‘It Could Happen to You’ is a movie that probably flew under most people’s radar at the time. I saw it upon its home video release and somewhat enjoyed it – so, being in rom-com mode lately, I thought it was time to revisit it and see how it holds up.
This is the story of a good natured New York cop who, in lieu of a tip, shares what would later become a winning lotto ticket with a down-and-out waitress. After discovering that he’s won, however, tensions build with his money-hungry wife and all three of their lives change dramatically.
Overall, ‘ICHTY’ is a nice film, with well-written characters: the cop is well-defined, admirable and friendly, while the waitress is a little more generic but is sympathetic and endearing enough. Unfortunately, neither Nicolas Cage or Bridget Fonda entice or smoulder; they’re likeable, at best, and better casting could have helped this film tremendously (for instance, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan would have done a much better job).
Rosie Perez is shrill and completely grating. That is how she was meant to be, no doubt, but I wonder if she didn’t overdo it – I wondered how Cage’s character could even stand her at this point in their marriage. As for Stanley Tucci, who plays Fonda’s ex, he was way under-written and under-utilized – had he been written out entirely it wouldn’t have changed much. It’s too bad, too, because there was potential there.
Ultimately, though, the film is about the husband-wife-waitress trio, and the trouble that this new-found fortune (and subsequent fame!) brings into their lives – so any other characters are truly secondary and kept to the sidelines. As I mentioned above, with a different cast (Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart, for instance), this could have been completely suitable – but, here, more engaging roles for the second bananas would probably have been welcome.
It is worth noting that it was Jane Anderson’s first script to make it to the silver screen and she would end up writing and directing a segment of the delightful ‘If These Walls Could Talk 2’ and the tremendously under-rated ‘The Prize-Winner of Defiance, Ohio’. Her screenplay may not have been entirely perfect this time around (ex: the Good Samaritan Fund segment of the film was a great idea, but it simply petered out – resulting in a flaccid and dull end), but it was pretty good start.
In the end, the film is improbable, but not impossible (i.e. it would probably not appeal to cynics!). Having said this, there are contrivances that annoy along the way and deter from one’s enjoyment, such as the final court scene (because there’s no way that Cage’s ex would have had her way: there was plenty of proof of her infidelity, of his great character, …etc. Furthermore, she had once publicly proclaimed herself as the ‘woman with the heart of gold’ – thereby nullifying her own arguments and grievance).
And there was one moment that, in my mind, was completely ruined at the end, when Cage explains to Fonda that he was happy that everything turned out the way it did. Instead of saying “you gave me you” (which makes me retch even thinking about it!), he could simply have told her that she got it all backwards: that, in truth, instead of thinking that she had taken everything away from him, she needed to know that this ticket also gave him her – and that, despite everything else that came along with that lottery win, she was the best thing that could ever happen to him.